In a previous blogpost, we talked about curating content to make the life of your content marketing a lot easier. Not all content should be created by yourself (unless you have an enormous budget and can afford the time and money to spend on creating all content yourself).
So what other ways are there to leverage the content of other to help you grow your online presence and help increase your visibility online?
Try looking into User Generated Content.
Putting your customers in control of creating content can be a bit scary for a lot of brands, but it also will help you to grow your content offering significantly, develop and strengthen the relationship you have with your users and all that content linking back to your brand can increase your SEO significantly as well.
The final reason is best described by Aaron Orendorff:
You are not your company’s best salesperson.
In fact – no matter how effective your training, incentive or marketing programs may be — nobody within your business is as good at selling as your customers. This is why brands are taking advantage of user-generated content (UGC).
So how can you tap into this world and make User Generated Content work for your company?
What is User Generated Content exactly?
Let’s first start to look into what is and what isn’t UGC. UGC first became popular around 2005. Around that time the BBC adopted a way for the user to generate content on their websites, there was the rise of social media and one year later Time Magazine even named “You” as the Person of the Year 2006. As a reference towards all the possibilities that people now had to quickly create text, audio, video, still images and all sort of other content on YouTube and Facebook.
But in the early days, UGC attempts by brands and publishers often looked ugly and a bit weird. Brands were struggling to find their way in this new way of producing content. They thought it would open the dialogue with their customers, but their customers did not know yet what to do either.
And of course, there were some companies who paid people to start submitting fake reviews, etc. that resulted in people losing the trust in their favourite brands as soon as that came to light.
A lot of that changed though in when in 2011 Coca-Cola started their “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia. Giving people the opportunity to start getting their personalised bottles in stores.
To make sure that more people became aware of this campaign and to increase the sales, customers were asked to share a picture of themselves drinking Coca-Cola from their personalised bottle on social media. The result? The customer ending up stepping into the role of the advertiser and creating lots of free and excellent content for Coca-Cola to use on their social media channels.
So as you can see, in very basic form UGC is nothing more than content that is not created by your brand, but instead, it is created by the people (the costumers of the brand). This content can come in all sorts of different ways, shapes and forms. From things like copy, pictures and videos created by your customers by using:
- Forum posts
- Blog posts (guest posting)
- Questions and Answers asked on fora on the internet
- Social Media Content (e.g. Instagram picture where people share your product, Tweets, YouTube video’s, etc.)
All the content that is created that involves your brand, but is not created in-house is UGC.
Why is UGC one of the most powerful ways of Content Marketing
As it becomes more and more difficult to reach people via “traditional” advertisement online, marketers need to become ever more innovative to try to reach their target audience. Because no matter how persuasive and targeted your marketing is, 86% of consumers suffer from banner blindness.
As a result, you need to start telling a story to your audience; you need to connect with your audience emotionally. You need to make them feel there is a relevance to your product and their lives.
So why is UGC so important and powerful you might think?
Because people trust people.
Marketing has always been about the brands itself, and brand had put people in the background, they were passive participants. Brands produced, and the people consumed it. Because of this push strategy, people are getting fed up with brands. Over the years, their expectations grew higher.
Brands, your company, have to put people above and beyond in their marketing process. By harnessing the power of individuals. UGC is all about authenticity and trustworthiness, about building that honest relationship with your audience. This is why UGC is so powerful.
The benefits of UGC for your company
So now you know, why it is important to start looking into UGC for your brand, let’s have a look at the benefits it can deliver for your company:
Because people trust people, UGC can help increase the conversion rate for e-commerce stores with 4.6% according to research done by L2, next to that user-generated content interactions while shopping can help increase the conversion rate even further to 9.6%. 53% of Millenials even say that UGC influences their buying behaviour.
Encourages more engagement
Because of the increased trust, UGC automatically gets more engagement. Comscore even goes as far as saying that engagement with a brand could even increase to 28% when you use UGC in your product videos.
Your customers are also twice as likely to share UGC with their friends and family making it go full circle again and helping to gain more trust.
It delivers authentic content
Every person, every brand has their story. But what is even more compelling than you telling your story? Your story being told in an authentic, non-scripted way, by the people who use and love your product every day. UGC tells a story like this because it is made by real people in real situations.
That’s why you can see a rise in websites likes Pexels and Unsplash, to name just two, over the last couple of years as well. People are fed up with the same boring stock photos. They want real people, with more genuine situations. Content created by your users is way better than pictures containing “Ariane“, which are so generic that they won’t even remember which brand was advertising with her.
It helps build brand loyalty
Writing something down makes us remember anything better. In the same way that when users generate content for your brand, it helps build a stronger connection between them and your brand.
By making them be the voice of your brand, they become the hero in your brand’s hero’s journey. And by making them the hero, it helps to make them even more loyal to you.
That loyalty is also built for them people just consuming User Generated Content since 78% of consumers trust recommendations made by peers. As you can imagine this entire process helps you to transform your customers into brand ambassadors. And because you can actively encourage people and involve them in this process, you’re not just building one ambassador but a large group of individuals ready to help promote your brand.
Building brand relevance
50% of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content. So not only is it easier to make for you (your customers are creating the content for you), but your customers will also remember your content better if it isn’t produced by yourself.
Good for SEO
Google and other search engines love fresh content. By asking people to share their reviews, testimonials and experiences about your product you can have a continuous flow of new and unique content.
Kissmetrics found that of the world’s top 20 biggest brands, 25% of their search results are linked to UGC. Better rankings in SEO, mean more organic traffic and you have to spend less on advertising.
How to get started with User Generated Content
People won’t just start creating content for your brand by themselves. The conditions have to be right for them to start creating and sharing content. After all, they are investing their time in it and even more so, they put their personal label of trust on your brand.
So how to get started?
It all starts with knowing your customers. Who is your target Buyer Persona? what kind of content do they like to create and share in their daily lives already? On which platforms are they sharing it? By trying to let them create content in the places they are most familiar and most active it, you will have a better chance of them creating content for you.
Hold the door open for them. Make is easy for your customers by already showing them the way. Do you want to receive review or testimonials for your product? Send them an email with a link to review your product a little bit after they purchased and had received your product. This way they had the time to fully experience it before reviewing. Do you want them to share a picture on Instagram with your product? Give them a reminder by programming other people already sharing your brand. And don’t forget to include the hashtag you want to use!
Give them something in return. Some products or brands are more natural for people to start automatically sharing than others. If your brand isn’t Coca Cola with your name on the bottle, don’t worry, you can give people a reason to share by offering something in return. And of course, depending on your product or service, this can be anything. It can be a free product, a coupon with a discount for their next purchase, being featured on your website, or just the chance to have your social media time share their creation. Whatever you can think of, make sure that it relates to your brand though to make it even more enticing.
Take advantage of the power of social media. Not all UGC is created straight on social media, reviews and testimonials, for example, don’t automatically make you think of having it on social media. UGC however, is meant to be shared. Add Call-To-Action buttons in the thank you message after someone left a review etc. This way you make it easier for them to showcase their testimonial to a broader audience.
And finally, be creative. Just as some products scream for people to start creating content, it doesn’t mean that if your product or service is not that much “fun” or popular you can’t find a reason to make use of User-Generated Content still. You can create an experience related to your brand that is more fun and more engaging for people to kickstart the content creation.
For some companies started to interact with their customers is more easy than others. Even adapting your entire website to make it ready for User-Generated Content can already take out way to much of your time.
If you’re smart though you don’t have to start that big. Your first steps could be as simple as asking customer for reviews and ratings or starting a conversation on social media or blog comments to help improve your social proof.
However, like any good form of marketing, UGC require that you have a thorough understanding of your customers. You have to know what inspires and motivates them. And most importantly how they feel about your brand. Once you sure about these items it’s time to come up with the idea to get them involved through UGC.
Take this opportunity as chance to engage more with your customers and build a better community among your followers. Unlike more traditional forms of marketing, Content Marketing and especially UGC can bring a lot of secondary benefits beyond simple brand exposure.
When your marketing can help you connect with and learn more about your audience, what’s not to love?
How is User-Generated Content working for you companies? Got some great examples to share? Leave them in the comments!